I’ve got a word for you; actually two words in English, a compound word in many other languages. Some might consider it a phrase, a title, a name perhaps. But watch out. When you hear it you might slip into a fit, a rage, perhaps — sweaty forehead, twitchy palms. You’re safe if you’re not driving. If you are driving, though, your bones might start to rattle as your eyes dart about for a quicker escape than anything Houdini could have ever conjured. What word am I talking about? Are you…
Ready… Set… ah screw it, Go…
See what I mean. If you’re reading this in your car, I hope you didn’t crash.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve all been there. After all, people need to learn how to drive. But why do these learners tend to follow me? Rather, why do I always end up following them? Wherever they are, I am. Wherever I am, they are. And they drive so damn slow! Why don’t the instructors encourage these learners to go the speed limit? I’ve had this problem with slow moving driving school cars everywhere I’ve lived: Africa, Europe, the US. It can be infuriating!
But it’s not only frustrating for those of us stuck behind Driving School cars. Think about the drivers themselves, the learners. How painful must that be?! They are undoubtedly aware of other drivers’ disdain – the honks. The glares. The laughter. And then there is the instructor; pen in one hand, clipboard in the other, his feet and eyes forever on the brake and mirrors. For the driver, it’s a test of tolerance and public humiliation. For the instructor, it’s life.
Imagine that… your life in the hands of inexperienced drivers; highway driving, parking lots, turns, and the dreaded parallel parking maneuver. Why is this not considered one of the most stressful professions? At least air traffic controllers aren’t taunted. These instructors, too, must also endure the raised fists and one finger salutes of passing motorists, constantly repeating the mantra to their students, “Pay no attention. Keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel.” At some point, they surely want to snap and scream: “Fuck it! Hit the gas and tailgate that jackass!” Wouldn’t that be grand?
But in the end, and being the selfish bastard that I am, it’s me I really care about. Who cares about the Driving School students and their instructors? I just want to get around them and get to where I want to go. I pass them and recite my own mantra for such situations: “Keep calm and keep away”.
By Dan Franch, February 2016